Skip to main content

Full text of "My Country And My People"

See other formats

130          MY   COUNTRY   AND   MY   PEOPLE

gathering stream, uninterrupted, continuous. The writing of
history then became the most serious form of literature and the
writing of poetry became its highest and most refined emotional

Sometimes, when the "wine was fragrant and the tea well-
brewed," amidst the singing of the kettle and the gurgling of
the spring, a happy thought came to the Chinese, and at
intervals of about five hundred years, or under the forces of
changed circumstances, their minds became creative and a
new discovery was made either in the metre of poetry or in the
improvement of porcelain, or in the art of grafting pear-trees,
and the nation moved on. They gave up speculation about
immortality as something for ever unknowable but for ever to
be conjectured and gossiped about, half seriously and half
playfully. Equally they gave up the mysteries of nature,
thunderstorms and lightning and hail and snow, and the
mysteries of their own bodily functions, such as the connection
between salival flow and hunger. They did not use the test-
tube or the scalpel. So sometimes it seemed to them as if the
whole sphere of the knowable had been exhausted by their
ancient forefathers, and the last word on human philosophy
said, and the last rhythm in calligraphy discovered.

So they fell more seriously to the business of living than to
the business of making progress* They took infinite pains and
spent sleepness nights over the planning of their private gardens
or the cooking of sharks' fins, and fell to eating with the
seriousness and gusto of an Omar Khayyam, who trailed the
dust of philosophy in vain and took again the vine for his
spouse. In this, they crossed the threshold of all the arts, and
entered the hall of the art of life itself, and art and life became
one. They achieved that crown of Chinese culture, the art
of living, which is the end of all human wisdom.